By Andrew McChesney, Adventist Mission
A 2:00 a.m. bar brawl in the U.S. state of Alaska turned violent when 28-year- old Tony Pouesi struck a man with a single punch.
The man fell and hit his head on the ground. He died the next day.
Tony was charged with felony manslaughter, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
“I was devastated,” Tony said. “I was scared. My whole life flashed before my eyes.”
From his jail cell, Tony remembered his upbringing in faraway Shelton, a small town in Washington state. His family never had read the Bible or attended church. He had used alcohol and illegal drugs as a teen and quit high school before completing 11th grade. As an adult, he had moved to Alaska to work as a commercial fisherman.
In jail, Tony began to pray desperately.
“I said, ‘If there is a God, I want to know that He is real,’ ” Tony, now 30, said in an interview. “I was crying on my knees for hours a day for help.”
Tony borrowed a Bible from the jail library and, to his astonishment, felt an overwhelming sense of peace and joy as he read it. He found special hope in Deuteronomy 31:6, one of the first Bible verses that he memorized. It reads, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (NKJV).
“As I prayed and read the Bible, God did miracles in my life,” Tony said.
After some time, Tony’s publicly appointed lawyer announced that she had good news: the potential prison sentence had been reduced to two to four years. Then the sentence was cut to one to three years on a reduced charge of negligent homicide.
One day, Tony found a small card on a bookshelf in the jail library: an invitation for Discover Bible lessons from the Voice of Prophecy, a Seventh-day Adventist ministry. He sent away for the lessons and eagerly studied them.
“What’s amazing is that I drank, I did drugs, and I didn’t graduate from high school, but I understood the Bible,” he said. “That’s amazing, right? You don’t have to be a scholar to understand the Bible.”
Shortly after completing the Bible studies, Tony’s case came up in court. There, Tony said, God worked a miracle. The judge handed down a three-year suspended sentence. Tony was free.
“God delivered me from jail,” Tony said. “The whole time I was in there was nine months.”